Knife Shapes

Japanese Knife Shapes


Japanese Knife ShapesYanagi-baThe Yanagi-ba (Willow-blade). This classic Japanese sashimi knife is sometimes also called a Shobu (Iris). Created for slicing raw fish and seafood, the length and sharpness of the single edged blade allow cooks to make one smooth pull to cut cleanly through delicate ingredients with very little force, resulting in perfect glossy slices with no bruises or rough surfaces. The Yanagi-ba is traditionally used in Japan’s Kansai region (Kyoto/Osaka).


Similar to the Yanagi-ba but with a more flexible, thinner, lighter and sharper blade, the Fugu-hiki is designed for cutting wafer thin slices of Sashimi. As its name suggests it is most commonly used for slicing blow fish (Fugu).


The tako-hiki is a sashimi knife like the yanagi-ba, made in a Kanto (Tokyo) style. Like the yanagi-ba, the length of the tako-hiki and the sharpness of its single edged blade allow chefs to make one smooth pull to cleanly slice raw fish and seafood without bruising or causing rough surfaces. The main differences are the Tako-hiki’s squared tip and the dead straight cutting edge which many Japanese chefs consider a virtue. Because of its shape it has to be pulled further through the slice which helps to impart a beautiful sheen to the sashimi.


The Kiritsuke is a multipurpose knife that can be used for meat, fish, vegetables and fruit and is intended to be used for many kitchen tasks. Kiritsuke is the only truly multipurpose traditional Japanese knife.

Usu-ba (Kansai)

In the Kansai region (Osaka and Kyoto), the Usu-ba comes with a rounded tip and is sometimes also referred to as the kamagata usuba. Both styles cut in the same manner.

Usu-ba (Kanto)

The Usu-ba, whose name literally means “thin blade,” is the traditional Japanese knife for cutting vegetables. Its sharp and exceptionally thin edge lets chefs make clean precise cuts and slices through hard vegetables. The Kanto region (Tokyo) Usu-ba has a square tip.


The Ken-muki is another specialist knife used for precision cutting of fruits and vegetable. Like the Usu-ba it has an exceptionally sharp thin edge but with the addition of an ultra-sharp point for intricate carving.


The Deba is a heavy knife for gutting and filleting fish. The sharpness and weight of its durable thick blade lets you glide the knife along fish bones to separate the fillets, as well as cut through fish heads, ribs and poultry joints. The Deba is also used by Japanese chefs to chop fish and shrimp into a paste.


Mi-oroshi is also used for filleting. Thinner and narrower than the Deba it is more suitable for smaller fine boned fish.


Hone-kiri (bone-cutter) is a special purpose knife used for making many fine cuts through small boned fish, such as pike-eel (hamo), to achieve a particular style of preperion. It is also called “Hamo-kiri”.

Unagi-saki (Kanto)

The Unagi-saki (eel cutter) is a specialist professional tool for the preparation of eel. Due to regional differences in the preparation of this delicacy, each region has their preferred style of knife. The Kanto-style Unagi-saki is the only one with a point.

Unagi-saki (Kyoto)
Unagi-saki (Nagoya)
Unagi-saki (Osaka)

The sushikiri (sushi cutter) is traditionally used to cut sushi rolls (makizushi) and pressed sushi (oshizushi) without crushing the rice. Its curved edge makes it easy to cut directly downwards through the sushi as opposed to pulling a straight edge knife through it.


The Sabaki is a Japanese style boning knife, primarily used for removing the meat from bones (but not cutting through them). Its short blade length, sharp point and sturdy construction make it easy to get in and around a carcass with speed and accuracy.